Lewis and Clark in murder mystery 200 years after their final expedition

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Meriwether Lewis, one half of the Lewis and Clark explorer duo who first reached the Pacific by land, may have been murdered, say descendants who want his body exhumed.

Now, as the 200th anniversary of his death approaches, his descendants have mounted a fresh push to have his body exhumed and the cold case reopened, believing that modern forensic procedures could settle the mystery.

An often melancholy character, his death was noted as a suicide and, despite his status, his body was buried hastily and without ceremony nearby. A monument subsequently erected in 1848 paid homage to his courage and "scrupulous fidelity to the truth" - a quality that his descendants say they are now also upholding as they seek to settle speculation as to what really happened that night at the inn.

Members of the monument committee who viewed Lewis's remains in 1848 concluded it was "more probable that he died at the hands of an assassin" and in 1996, a Tennessee coroner's hearing recommended a full forensic study of the bones. But the federal government has held out against granting the necessary permit.

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